27 March 2009

Goodbye Madagascar

I keep trying to write on paper the blogs that I want to post, about the political situation, how it has effected my work, my mentality, its root causes, the way it impacts peoples lives in the countryside, Malagasy people's takes on things, what its like being evacuated, what I'm doing next, etc. At first I couldn't really process things. I couldn't even keep a journal. Now, all these ideas and all my experiences over the last two months are all run together and I still can't make sense of things, nor write clearly about them. So rather than try to analyze it all or really share my experiences, I'll just give you a dry, blow-by-blow to bring you up to date. It'll be bare bones, but maybe after some questions from you all I will be able to elucidate matters a little more. I'll try to post some pics, too.

So late January I left my site to go to the capital and pick up my good friend Alex, who was visiting from the states. We had grand plans but unrest broke out the day he arrived. After driving through looting and general mayhem, we holed up at a Malagasy friend of mine's house. After a few days with no resolution in site, Alex left for South Africa to take his vacation elsewhere and I got consolidated with about 50 other volunteers. We stayed at a training facility for three weeks playing volleyball, reading, getting daily briefs on the situation, and generally going stir crazy. We all wanted to get back to our communities. During this time Liz was supposed to have arrived to come down and work in Vondrozo again with me, but WWF suspended volunteer activities so she couldn't come.

Finally, things were deemed face enough for us to go back to our sites under a heightened security protocol. I tried to get back to work on my way down to site. We had written a grant proposal before I left and I took it to a couple donors. It was clear though that things were pretty much at a standstill and agencies were waiting for things in Madagascar to get better before resuming normal operations. Then I got caught in town with some shooting and had to be moved with one other volunteer to a safe town for a couple more days.

I finally got back to Vondrozo in late February. The students I worked with were disheartened by the whole deal and not motivated to keep doing projects. My WWF agents were grounded and not allowed to go out in the field and do their work. So my work changed. I did some project planning with WWF and helped a friend to plant rice using improved techniques. It was a productive week of work, all in all. But then the military factionalized and the security situation in Tana degraded substantially. Peace Corps decided to pull out.

A week later I was in South Africa, with all 120 or so of us who had not chosen to leave earlier. We had a rushed conference to either get reassigned or separated from Peace Corps. I was not done and really wanted to transfer, but my medical exam turned up some things that Peace Corps was not comfortable with, so they want me to go back to the states and get healthy. Immediately after finding out I couldn't transfer, I booked a flight to Cape Town and the next day was here.

I've been here a few days and love the town. Tomorrow a few friends and I will rent a car and do an overland journey through southern Africa. We are all really excited for the trip but still stressed and sad to see others go.

Next month Ill go to Malaysia for two weeks with Liz before returning to Africa. I want to make it up to Cairo and into Europe. We'll see how far the money lasts. Eventually, I'll get back stateside to have these medical check-ups while I wait for things in Madagascar to right themselves so that I can return.

Damn, I miss that island so much already...

29 January 2009

Madagascar in Crisis?

Hey, since people are starting to find out about the situation here and ask me about it, I thought I ought to finally say something to assuage the fear.

The country is in a political crisis as the mayor of the capital is calling for the president to step down and the entire country has erupted in looting against the president's factories.

I am in the capital, safe and sound, just waiting out this situation. It is calm now but could still get worse.

Don't worry for me - there is no targeting of foreigners and i am staying in a walled compound with some friends - we even have internet!

below are a few links to sites you can get updates if you are so inclined. It is hard to get breaking news in english but there are a couple blogs being updated frequently.

this is a facebook group where news is being posted as its found out. it is a good site to find out about the current status of peace corps in madagascar

a former volunteer's blog who is living in antananarivo right now and very active in keeping the world alert to current issues here

in french but has up to the minute falsh news briefs. probably more relevant to us in the country actually...

If you find other sites please post them to the comments to help others learn about this situation

As I am not allowed to have a political opinion here I cant comment any more on the reasons this situation erupted but you can easily find out for yourselves. I really just wanted to let you all know that I am just fine and this is all more interesting than scary for me (really its incredibly boring sitting inside all day so you should email me and let me know how you are doing).